We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Two extreme authoritarians on a bus

The author describes his characters as a social justice warrior and a neo-Nazi. His point is that authoritarians end up wanting similar things whatever their excuses.

SJW: Did you hear that at the University of Michigan, they’re so progressive, student activists demanded segregated areas for students of colour?

NN: This is exactly as it should be—the races are distinct and should stay that way. We must all strive to keep our unique practices intact. Honestly, it sickens me to see whites shamelessly adopting the customs of other cultures.

Both agree that

It’s the libertarian types who are the worst, with their self-serving so-called freedoms.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Most people understand “single market” to mean something like “free trade zone”. In fact, in the EU context, it means “single regulatory regime”. Membership of the single market doesn’t mean the right to buy and sell there (pretty much the entire world can do that); it means accepting EU jurisdiction over your domestic technical standards… Only six per cent of British companies do any business at all with the rest of the EU; yet 100 per cent of our firms must apply 100 per cent of EU regulations. Our aim should be to exempt the 94 per cent … from EU directives and regulations.”

Daniel Hannan, quoted in a new paper from the Institute of Economic Affairs, making the case for unilateral free trade. The item is by Kevin Dowd, a noted exponent, among other things, of genuine competition in banking and money, and a scathing critic of our current banking and monetary regime.

Tim Worstall had thoughts on all this some time ago. And a little history: the speech by Sir Robert Peel, one of the greatest British statesmen of all time, on the case for ending agricultural protection.

Samizdata quote of the day

Turning to communism for fear of fascism is like suicide for fear of death

Perry de Havilland.

Sadly, it is time to recycle this one yet again it seems.

I wish I were reading a happier version of this story

Has anyone else been guiltily transfixed by the mystery of Danish inventor Peter Madsen, his now-sunken submarine, and the missing Swedish journalist Kim Wall? I truly do not wish to make light of the fact that a woman is missing, presumed dead, but I was undeniably fascinated by the whole idea of a crowd-sourced, privately built submarine. In any other circumstances I would have been delighted to learn that such a thing existed.

Here are some news reports on the story:

Danish submarine owner arrested over missing journalist

Submarine in missing journalist case sunk on purpose, Danish police say

Kim Wall and Danish submarine: What we know and what we don’t

Police in Two Countries Searching for Woman Missing Since Sub Sank

When commenting, please bear in mind that a criminal investigation is ongoing – and that all should be entitled to the presumption of innocence.

Samizdata quote of the day

I found the reasons various people gave for choosing sides in the American Civil War fascinating, but the complexities of each choice have largely been ignored in contemporary discussions on the subject. I guess the BBC and their ilk prefer to stoke the flames of a race war by implying Lee was fighting to preserve slavery.

Well, they’re getting what they wanted, aren’t they?

Tim Newman

German Historicism and American Pragmatism are very different philosophies, but they have some similar results

German “Historicism” (whether of the “right”, Hegel, or the “left” Karl Marx) and American “Pragmatism” (Charles Pierce, William James, John Dewey….) are very different philosophies (very different indeed) – but they have some things in common which lead to some similar results. They both deny objective and universal truth – the Ralph Cudworth or Thomas Reid thinking of “We hold these truths to be self evident….” of the American Declaration of Independence and the philosophy of the Bill of Rights. Made most obvious by the Ninth Amendment – indeed the Bill of Right is clearly compiled in the wrong order, the Ninth Amendment should be the First Amendment and the Tenth Amendment should be the Second Amendment – read it and it should be obvious to you.

German Historicism holds that different “truths” apply to different “historical periods” and to different “races” and “classes” – perhaps the only answer that such a relativist philosophy deserves is the one that such men as Erik Brown, “Mad Jack” Churchill and Audie Murphy gave it. But there are books that refute it, for example Carl Menger’s “The Errors of Historicism” (1883 – specifically on the German “Historical School” of economics and its denial of the universal and objective laws of economic truth), “Human Action” by Ludwig Von Mises, and “The Poverty of Historicism” by Karl Popper.

→ Continue reading: German Historicism and American Pragmatism are very different philosophies, but they have some similar results

National Socialists are Socialists

National Socialists are socialists and trying to counter the “Identity Politics” of the left with more “Identity Politics” is like trying to counter arsenic with cyanide

One does not really need to read “The Road to Serfdom” by F.A. Hayek or “Omnipotent Government” by Ludwig Von Mises (although it is good to read these works – especially “Omnipotent Government”) to know that National Socialists are socialist collectivists – watching the Nazis, for that is what they are, marching at night with lighted touches through the University of Virginia chanting “Blood and Soil” should tell anyone that these people have nothing in common with the philosophy of the Bill of Rights – that they are collectivists, socialists.

“But Paul the opposition to them was controlled by Marxists – a movement that has murdered even more people than the Nazis” – and where have I denied that? I understand that very well – and I have condemned the left, in the strongest terms, all my life. But one does NOT oppose arsenic with cyanide – one does NOT oppose the “Identity Politics” of the “left” (of the Frankfurt School of Marxism “Diversity” crowd) with an “Identity Politics” of the “right”.

“But Paul one can not defeat the Marxists with the philosophy of the Bill of Rights (mocked for centuries now by the “educated” – Mr Hume, Mr Bentham and so on) – one can only defeat collectivism with a different form of collectivism”.

A pox on such a “victory” – and a pox on all those who choose it.

Thoughts about what happened in Virginia this weekend

“It’s becoming so clear now why the war of words between SJWs and the new white nationalists is so intense. It isn’t because they have huge ideological differences — it’s because they have so much in common. Both are obsessed with race, SJWs demanding white shame, the alt-right responding with white pride. Both view everyday life and culture through a highly racialised filter. SJWs can’t even watch a movie without counting how many lines the black actor has in comparison with the white actor so that they can rush home and tumblr about the injustice of it all. Both have a seemingly boundless capacity for self-pity. Both are convinced they’re under siege, whether by patriarchy, transphobia and the Daily Mail (SJWs) or by pinkos and blacks (white nationalists). Both have a deep censorious strain. And both crave recognition of their victimhood and flattery of their feelings. This is really what they’re fighting over — not principles or visions but who should get the coveted title of the most hard-done-by identity. They’re auditioning for social pity. “My life matters! My pain matters! I matter!” The increasing bitterness and even violence of their feud is not evidence of its substance, but the opposite: it’s the narcissism of small differences.”

Brendan O’Neill, as seen on his Facebook page. He is writing about the violence in Virginia at the weekend.

I think he is broadly right, and if we are trying to work out where the rot of identity politics comes from (the libertarian scholar Tom G Palmer actually calls it “identitarianism”) I would wager that post-modernism, and the idea that there are no objective standards of truth and value, has something to do with it. Of all the books I have read in the past decade, Prof. Stephen Hicks’ short masterpiece, Explaining Postmodernism, gets as close as I can see to putting a finger on today’s nonsense.

Speaking for myself, I had a glimpse of this retreat from reason last week when, in an online chat with a friend about the Google sacking of James Danmore, a woman jumped in to state that no matter what arguments or logic I could use to object to the firing of this man, that her “lived experience” (ie, the fact that she knows Google female employees who are upset) would outweigh it. Not logic, reason or evidence, but “lived experience”. What this person failed to realise, perhaps, was she had committed a classic stolen concept error: the very attempt to deploy “lived experience” as a sort of “I win!” itself implies that there is some sort of logic against which one can test it. If there is no logic against which one can test and evaluate one “lived experience” against another, all one has left is that the gang of those with “lived experience” A beats those with “lived experience” B. This is known as Might is Right, or the power of the mob.

And in a world where logic and reason are dethroned because of hurt feelings, the results are very unpleasant. As we are seeing now almost daily.

Update: great editorial by the Wall Street Journal. ($)

The progress of social programs and the debt

1960’s: Lets eliminate everything bad. We can go to the moon so why not end poverty!
“Yes, do it.”

1970’s: Well, it doesn’t look so easy. We’ll have to spend more money.
“Well, okay.”

1980’s: It is actually not working. Maybe we should spend some more slightly differently.
“Well, give it a try.”

1990’s. We’ve got so many people depending on this! We have to spend more to keep them afloat.
“Well, I don’t want to look like a terrible person, so okay.”

2000’s: The debt is growing, and the social programs are actually having negative effects, but we have to keep trying! We’re nice people! We have to DO SOMETHING!
“Well, is this really necessary… why not cut back… oh, okay, don’t look at me that way.”

2010’s: The country is in debt and things are awful! We must help those who are least able to help themselves. We have to let the world see what nice people we are!
“Well… no.”
You can’t say that! You EVIL RACIST HOMOPHOBIC ANTI-WOMAN OLD WHITE MALE SUPREMACIST!!!!!”
“Oh, bog off.”

<- Get Hired - Get Fired ->

This is just too good not to share:

In Meme War terms, this is like taking two torpedoes amidships 😆

(Hat tip to Ignacio Wenley Palacios)

The fired Google employee

Recently dismissed Google employee James Damore posted a document on an internal Google mailing list entitled Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber about Google’s diversity policy and the difficulty of criticising it. It was originally reported by Motherboard (labelled an anti-diversity manifesto) and later by Gizmodo (labelled an anti-diversity screed). Here are some quotations from the document:

I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more.

I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad […] . I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group

Meanwhile the very headlines of the article call this an anti-diversity document, establishing a narrative.

Here is a reaction from Laura Shortridge, a prominent commentator on Twitter:

Many users responded that he had not called for anyone to be fired. A response to this objection may hint at where differences in opnion about the document originate:

The personality differences section talks about such things as “openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas”. It also contains more controversial-sounding statements such as “Women on average are more prone to anxiety”. It cites a section of a wikipedia article about sex differences in psychology, though this may not have been known by commentators external to Google as the version of the document containing hyperlinks has only become available more recently. The Wikipedia page says, ” Females were on average higher than males in extraversion, anxiety, trust, and, especially, tender-mindedness (e.g., nurturance).” It cites “Gender differences in personality: a meta-analysis” by Feingold, A. (1994-11-01). The section is in the context of coming up with suggestions to improve the work environment for women without resorting to discriminatory practices such as training courses only available to women.

The Guardian columnist Owen Jones says:

Damore’s assertions about gender are, frankly, guff dressed up with pseudo-scientific jargon: not just belittling women, but reducing men to the status of unemotional individualistic robots.

On the general subject of differences between men and women, Scott Alexander has an interesting article comparing meta-studies on the subject and statistical approaches which lead to different results. He finds that:

[Author of a meta-analysis Hyde] does a wonderful job finding that men and women have minimal differences in eg “likelihood of smiling when not being observed”, “interpersonal leadership style”, et cetera. But if you ask the man on the street “Are men and women different?”, he’s likely to say something like “Yeah, men are more aggressive and women are more sensitive”. And in fact, Hyde found that men were indeed definitely more aggressive, and women indeed definitely more sensitive. But throw in a hundred other effects nobody cares about like “likelihood of smiling when not observed”, and you can report that “78% of gender differences are small or zero”.

In his document, Damore explains that he is talking about small differences between men and women across a large population, and not making generalisations.

I’m not saying that all men differ from all women in the following ways or that these differences are “just.” I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.

This is difficult to reconcile with reactions from fellow employees, such as, “That garbage fire of a document is trash and you are wonderful coworkers who I am extremely lucky to work with.”

The first official response from Google was from Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance, Danielle Brown.

I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender.

It is understandable that someone might hold this view, though the document mainly summarised information on Wikipedia.

The CEO later said:

portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives. To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.

This seems to misrepresent the document, which is mainly talking about why women who do not work for Google do not work for Google. It says nothing at all about the ones who do work there.

He continues:

At the same time, there are co-workers who are questioning whether they can safely express their views in the workplace (especially those with a minority viewpoint). They too feel under threat, and that is also not OK. People must feel free to express dissent. So to be clear again, many points raised in the memo — such as the portions criticizing Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all — are important topics.

It is clear the the offending portion of the document is the part that summarised Wikipedia’s summary of the state of the science on the subject. I wonder whether, as a matter of debating tactics, it might have been possible to make the same points in safety, while omitting this section. On the subject of tactics, there are a couple of interesting comments about this on ESR’s blog:

You can make the work environment more hostile for lots of people by saying true things. It is reasonable to fire someone who creates negative value for the company in this manner

and

if you loudly challenge the principles or initiatives which have been handed down and spearheaded by upper management, you’d be a damn fool to expect to keep your job for very long.

To the extent that these comments are true it does not speak well of the environment at Google or in Silicon Valley, but it is interesting that Damore’s firing was predictable and indeed somewhat predicted in the very document that led to it.

I’ve gotten many personal messages from fellow Googlers expressing their gratitude for bringing up these very important issues which they agree with but would never have the courage to say or defend because of our shaming culture and the possibility of being fired.

Perhaps comments which sound inflammatory out of context can be avoided. For example, “Women, on average, have more … neuroticism” or “the Left tends to deny science”. But taken as a whole the document has been treated unfairly by some.

I wonder how easy it is for Google to hire more women, given that “According to the American Association of University Women, in recent years only 20% of Advanced Placement computer science exam takers in high school have been female.”.

Finally, I should like to draw everyone’s attention to the Norwegian television documentary series “Hjernevask”, or “Brainwash” in English, which is on this very topic, and is quite worth watching. I’ve linked to the first of the seven parts below:


Please make sure you enable subtitles, unless you speak Norwegian that is.

Getting the excuses in first

(This is a reworking of comments I sent to a couple of friends of mine in an email. A few points have been cut out because they would not make sense to outsiders, and others have been added.)

I see that Owen Jones, the Corbynite journalist, is in the Guardian pushing the idea that if Jeremy Corbyn and his fellow socialists are elected into government, that elements of the “deep state” and all those dastardly neo-liberal establishment types will try and frustrate him.

In a country that has, or should have, checks and balances in a constitutional liberal order, no government, even if elected with a large majority in the House of Commons, should have unfettered power to re-order a country, to trample on property rights and other liberties.

It could be argued that naively or less so, the operatives of the “deep state” or even less “deep” state – such as civil servants, lawyers, etc might assume they perform some sort of function along these lines, although in a healthy political order that should be unnecessary. Of course it is outrageous if security services, which operate in the shadows, might try and frustrate a democratically elected government; perhaps, however, this is likely to happen if other, more credible curbs on unfettered power have been eroded, as they have been in the UK, over many years. (The proper solution is to rebuild those restraints. In the US, a great advocate of precisely that is Prof. Randy Barnett.)

In arguing that a government duly elected should be able to go all in and do what it wants, and take democracy “to the streets” and workplaces, and who stirs up fears about being frustrated by dark forces, Jones is pushing a sort of “mobocracy”. He is a sort of intellectual descendant of that mad and bad man, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who considered that no boundaries should exist in the face of any “General Will” of a public to be interpreted by the likes of himself. (I can recommend J Talmon’s book on this episode, The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy.)

There is more than just a whiff of the French barricades about Jones, although he would not last long in a fight, I suspect. He imagines that secret agents and other “conspirators” will try and frustrate a government he favours, but frustrating, or delaying, what a government can do is actually not a bug, but a feature, of a liberal order. In short, Jones’ rejection of any kind of restraint demonstrates an authortarian mindset at work.

There is a measure of truth in his claim about attempts by the security services in the 1970s to curb the Harold Wilson government of the time; the security services probably really thought that some in the Labour Party were in hock to the Soviets. I am sure that there were genuine instances of this. And for that matter, consider what is being said and done to Trump today and the claims and counter-claims about the “deep state”. Consider this item by leftist/civil libertarian Glenn Greenwald.  What is ironic is that the sort of claims about what could happen under Labour are being made by those fearful that Trump is suffering or could suffer the same alleged fate.

But beyond such conspiracy theories, there is a broader problem with the Jones article. So much of what is at fault with Jones’ take on the world is his total lack of perspective. For example, he goes on and on about “neoliberalism”. (A term for a sort of hybrid of genuine classical liberalism plus an acceptance of certain state institutions and functions, such as central banking. It is often associated with the influence of the Chicago school of economics and governments of Thatcher, Reagan and other.) But just how “liberal” is our current position? Given that more than 40 per cent of the economy is under state control and a good deal of the rest is regulated, it is laughable to argue that we are in a liberal position although these are matters of degree, of course.

The tragedy of it is that Owen Jones is not completely wrong to damn our current situation. If only, if only he could break free of his collectivism. It would be good to see him direct some of his fire towards asking who really gains from, say, central bank money printing and bank bailouts. (Clue: Not poor people.) He should consider the pockets of privilege created by land-use planning/zoning, or restrictions on entry into certain occupations. Or bash the corruption of quangos, NGOs and the whole structure of regulatory bodies endlessly calling for the control of this or that. Or nanny statist interference in the hobbies and pleasures of working people, such as smoking, drinking or whatever.

There is a lot of traction in the old Gladstonian class analysis of the “masses and the classes”; this is a tradition of thought that has been overshadowed in how class is often thought of as a concern that mainly comes from Marx.

The trouble is that Jones is a socialist and believer in Big Government, and hence hostile to the decentralised market order and thus ignorant of the the information contained in prices; he appears ignorant of the public choice insights of economists such as the late US figure James Buchanan and others. This means Jones lacks the intellectual equipment to understand what is actually going on. At  most, he glimpses a problem here and a partial solution there, but never quite breaks through. It is like watching a man try and measure the depth of the ocean by standing over the water with a telescope. It is genuinely frustrating.

Jones is maddening because you like to think there is a genuinely intelligent person there, is not beyond redemption (sorry if that sounds patronising), but a central part of how he thinks is fouled up. It is very hard to break this down, no matter how much evidence or logic is deployed. Too much of his thinking involves “boo” words (neo-liberalism, etc). And I suspect it would be too humiliating for  him to change course now, although you never can tell.

I would conclude by saying that almost without fail, use of “neo-liberal” in an article of any kind suggests the reader is an aggressive statist.

(As an aside, here is a sharp review of Jones’ book, The Establishment.)